When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you confound the audience with a deluge of convoluted plots riddled with holes. It seems like the latter's garnered quite a bit of attention lately, especially with the series' eighth and final season prompting more than one million fans to sign a petition calling for a complete rewrite.
Being a pretty dedicated fan, I think that's a little extreme. I mean, when you've written a series that has seen such an indisputably wild amount of success, it's obvious something was done right, isn't it? That said, it's impossible to argue that the series hasn't been gradually glossing over more and more egregious offenses in terms of plot holes and baffling lapses in logic as it winds to a close.
Taking the recent uproar into consideration, it feels like a perfectly reasonable time to sit down and take a good look at the many plot holes, continuity issues, contradictions, and so on that we've put up with for the sake of enjoying the show. Here are ten big plot holes along with fifteen things that simply don't make a lick of sense when it comes to Game of Thrones.
When Jon and friends manage to bag a wight so they can show it off to Cersei in season seven, a wooden box and a few iron chains seem sufficient to keep the beast caged.
But when the White Walkers march on Winterfell during the eighth season's third episode, the Night King manages to incidentally wake the fallen within the crypts. They seem to have no issue smashing through their heavy stone sarcophagi at this point, which I could only imagine being a great deal stronger than a flimsy wooden crate.
I'm a major, major fan of the character dynamics between Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark during her uncomfortable stay at Harrenhal. The performances and writing that went into it were incredible.
Well, that's until you consider how incredibly unlikely it would be for Tywin to completely overlook the fact that she's actually Arya. He knows that she's northern, he knows that she's highborn, and should be more than well aware that one of the Stark girls evaded capture after Eddard's betrayal in King's Landing. Given Tywin's intellectual prowess, how did this possibility manage to totally elude him the entire time?
Khal Drogo giving Prince Viserys the "crown" he so desperately wanted is a moment that's almost too perfect for words. But while it's totally satisfying in terms of drama, it's also completely and utterly impossible.
I mean, I get that in order to take in Game of Thrones' fantasy setting you need to achieve some suspension of disbelief but come on. The guy manages to smelt gold inside of a cooking pot in less than five minutes before dumping it all over Viserys, a process that requires a lot more time and four to five times more heat than you're going to get out of what is essentially a camping fire.
Daenerys' rescue of Jon and his crew north of the wall in season seven got an incredible amount of flak for the entire series of events leading up to it, but the most blatantly glaring flaw is how quickly she received the party's "distress raven" so she could seemingly teleport to their locale.
While she show manages to skirt any approximations concerning how much time actually passed, the party couldn't have been in the middle of that frozen lake for more than a day. And if they were indeed there any longer than that, they certainly don't seem any worse off for it by the time Daenerys arrives.
During the climactic, and seemingly hopeless, conclusion to season eight's undead extravaganza at Winterfell, Jon is barred from the godswood by the good dragon gone bad, Viserion.
He struggles between lofty pieces of cover, inching ever closer to the beast obstructing his confrontation with the Night King, until he finally gets within striking distance. He heroically springs out of cover, and he... just sort of yells at the thing for a minute. I get that he was frustrated, but given the time wasted and how close he was, surely it wouldn't have hurt to at least try and give the dragon's ribs a little tickle with that fancy Valyrian steel sword? Or maybe he'd just been playing way too much Skyrim lately.
After the Night King gets his hands on Viserion, his first order of business is to use his nifty new dragon to obliterate the Wall and get his spooky troops marching towards Winterfell. This is something the flying war machine accomplishes pretty handily, managing to reduce it to rubble with no more than a few fiery sweeps.
And yet when attempting to take out Jon during season eight's clash at Winterfell, a few bits of rock and collapsed sections of wall seem enough to shield the King in the North from the dragon's breath. Something about that doesn't quite add up.
There's a certain catharsis involved with seeing a character's developmental arc reach a crescendo, and the writers for Game of Thrones saw fit to completely deprive us of that with Jaime's last minute decision to go be at his sister's side.
Sure, it was subversion of audience expectations at that point, and that's something Game of Thrones has actively tried to accomplish in virtually every season. However, so much good writing had been invested into Jaime's tragically redemptive arc that its conclusion felt unceremonious, random, and forced. Subversion for the sake of subversion itself just feels uncharacteristically lazy.
Armchair generals the world over certainly didn't cut season eight's battle for Winterfell any slack whatsoever. And while I'm not too happy to admit it, a lot of their criticisms make pretty valid points.
One particular bone I've got to pick with it involves charging the dothraki headlong into pitch darkness against a numerically superior enemy they'd never seen before, even with the benefit of flaming blades. The flickering flames on their swords fading in the distance made for one of the most visually stunning pieces of cinematography over the whole series, but it has a hard time making up for the fact that it's an extreme tactical misstep.
During season six we got an unexpected twist out of Melisandre with the revelation concerning her youthful vigor and beauty being tied to a particular magical amulet that she wears. More than a few of us may or may not have shielded our eyes as her body reverted to an aged and decrepit state upon its removal.
Unfortunately, in the greater context of the show, it ends up feeling pretty irrelevant. No mind is really ever paid to it outside of the initial shock factor. It's also plainly tacked on as an afterthought, as we clearly see Melisandre without it during season four and appearing just as she always has.
If the Iron Bank hosts such a gifted bunch of up-jumped mathletes, it probably should've been pretty easy for them to figure out that even a single dragon weighs the battle too far in Daenerys' favor for even the Golden Company to successfully offset.
Having finally collected the sum of the Lannisters' considerable debt, it would've been much more in character for the Iron Bank to completely pull out of the conflict and offer their congratulations to the victor – as well as a few loans to help rebuild whatever's left of King's Landing afterward. Even if the "revolutionary" Daenerys emerged victorious, all kingdoms run on gold, regardless of who sits in the big, pointy chair.
Those that weren't totally stunned beyond words at the loss of one of Daenerys' dragon babies and its subsequent resurrection as a wight were taking note of an obvious contradiction in the show's logic.
How did the wights manage to attach the chains that they'd used to haul the dragon up from the bottom of the lake? The only thing keeping them from taking out Jon and the rest of his party was the very lake they'd have to plunge into in order to do so. Seems awfully convenient that they become waterproof for this single, all-important task.
The show's first few seasons might seem like ages ago, but you might recall a certain footpad that was paid off to take out Bran Stark after his unfortunate tumble from a certain tower. Petyr Baelish was quick to frame Tyrion for the attempt on the young Stark's life.
Being as intellectually deft as he is, it seems really odd for Tyrion to quickly put the whole business behind him and onto the back burner once he clears the charges via trial by combat. Such a calculated attempt to get him taken out seems like it'd warrant some further plot development on his end.
Things seemed to be going too well with Daenerys marshaling her forces to confront Cersei for the final season eight showdown, so naturally, something bad was bound to happen to her. And Euron Greyjoy just happened to have enough plot camouflage in stock to do the deed.
Seriously though, Daenerys is hundreds of feet in the air. The idea that the entirety of the Greyjoy fleet could nestle behind a small cliff to successfully ambush her entourage en route back to Dragonstone, totally escaping her detection until they manage to riddle her dragon with scorpion bolts, is more than a little hard to believe.
Things aren't looking too good for Theon and Sansa when they finally escape Ramsay's clutches in season six, with his hunters and hounds hot on their trail. Just when it appears they've been cornered, Brienne rides in to save the day.
They handle the Bolton hunters well enough, thanks largely to Brienne's immense skill at arms. But where did the hounds go during all of this? They're with the Bolton men right up to the point that Brienne and Podrick intervene, but the dangerously hungry canines somehow vanish into thin air directly afterward.
After Missandei's capture in season eight, Daenerys heads over the King's Landing to have a friendly little chat with Cersei in an attempt to talk out their hostilities. Overlooking what a hilariously bad idea that seems like to begin with, the fact that Cersei doesn't immediately take advantage of Daenerys' vulnerability doesn't make much sense.
The usual defense presented here consists of Cersei still needing to abide by the rules of warfare to preserve the support of the masses, but the obvious hole I see with this is the fact that she really hasn't paid this much mind up to this point. I mean, she really didn't seem too worried about public perception when she blew up the Sept of Baelor. Why start now?
I'm glad Edmure Tully turned up at King's Landing in the finale to provide us with some much needed comic relief, but seriously, where has this guy been for the past couple of seasons?
With Arya having virtually erased House Frey, he was presumably able to resume his lordship and take command of the Riverlands' troops once again. Those troops would've come in awfully handy considering Jon and Sansa had been scrambling for loyal northern soldiers for the past couple of seasons
Season two ends with Samwell in quite a predicament, as he seems to have stumbled directly into the path of the Night King's vanguard. A white walker even looks directly at him before his entourage of wights trudge forward. Then season three opens up with Sam somehow managing a hasty escape and no indication of events betwixt.
The way it's shot, we're led to believe that the Army of the Dead is literally right on top of him, no more than a few feet away, and the White Walker clearly sees him. Sam's not much of a fighter nor a runner, so how exactly did he make it out of there intact?
Euron seems to have an easy enough time skewering one of Daenerys' dragons with Qyburn's new and improved scorpions when he ambushes her at sea, managing to fell the great beast with no more than a couple of well-placed shots.
So why is it they don't seem to work at all when it comes time for the big rumble at King's Landing? Despite having dozens lining the walls, and dozens more affixed to the Greyjoy fleet at sea, hundreds upon hundreds of shots fail to come anywhere near striking down the Mother of Dragons during her plot armored rampage.
After the Dothraki's hilariously unsuccessful charge into the endless undead horde during the eighth season's battle against the Night King, we see maybe four dudes come running back alongside a few understandably spooked, riderless horses.
While Daenerys and her commanders are taking stock of what they have left, the Dothraki commander only removes half of his markers from the map. It could be argued that some of the Dothraki were held back, or interspersed among the infantry lines, but even showrunner David Benioff tells us that what we see is "the end of the Dothraki, essentially," not "the end of half of the Dothraki."
Let's just put this whole thing into context so we can get some perspective on how truly wild this is. The Faceless Men of Braavos, an entirely secretive and seemingly omniscient organization of professional life takers, are entirely cool with letting Arya walk out on them with the tools and secrets of their trade. Are you serious?
They don't even make an attempt to even the score after she defeats the waif. While this can be explained away as some sort of extreme test of her abilities, it still leaves the fact that she basically tells them to "shove it" and then defiantly storms out, promptly proceeding to use their tricks for her own ends.
A pretty big deal is made over the fact that there's a prince on Sandor's head after he forfeits his duties in King's Landing, and it should go without saying the Arya Stark's mere existence is enough to raise a few eyebrows.
So you'd think revealing their identities at the gate to the Eyrie would've made them important enough to at least be brought before the acting lord of the Vale, even with Sansa keeping her own identity a secret while she's there. But it comes to no more than them being curtly informed of Lysa Arryn's demise before they depart without being spared so much as a second glance.
I get that the men of the Iron Islands are a ruthless and morally bankrupt lot of ravagers, but Balon goes to great lengths in expressing how esteemed and respected Yara is by her ironborn cohorts compared to Theon.
However, they seem awfully quick to abandon her in favor of Euron, a kinslaying madman returning after many years in exile with a reputation as ugly as that big, dumb mustache clinging to his face. They're all pretty well aware of his last crew being forcibly deprived of their tongues, right?
Beyond becoming totally off-putting, alienated from his former humanity, and bordering on just a little bit creepy, Bran seems awfully unwilling to put his newfound practical omniscience to any actual use outside of dispensing cryptic references and reminding people that he can still see them when they change clothes or go to the privy.
Detailed battle tactics, enemy troop movements, likely outcomes of this plan or that one? Nah, he spends the majority of his time staring at walls, confirming things we already knew, playing Bird Simulator, and being crowned king, I guess. Hopefully, he puts his powers to a little more active use now that he's got a kingdom to run.
Good old uncle Plotarmor shows up to bail Jon out of a wight-related jam (that he totally brought upon himself, for the record) during the conclusion of season seven. He hurriedly shoves Jon up onto his horse and claims that there's "no time," proceeding to wade into the throng of undead, heroically buying Jon no more than three seconds.
The time bought for Jon seems pretty inconsequential when you consider that he's on horseback, and since he managed to haul both Bran and Meera on what I'd presume is the same steed, I can't make myself buy this. I'm sure a cool half-zombie uncle would've come in handy during the Night King's attack on Winterfell.
In the events of the series, Howland Reed's presence is incredibly sparse, limited only to his hand in the battle at the Tower of Joy. However, being an incredibly close friend to the Starks and the only survivor of that fateful encounter apart from Ned himself, you'd think he would be a bit more involved.
This isn't just an issue in the show, as Howland's significantly absent from the books as well. George R. R. Martin has gone on record to say that Howland won't be a POV character because he "knows too much," which only serves to further confound fans as to why he's held back in terms of both the books and the series. There's some speculation that he's actually seated among the gathered lords in King's Landing during the series finale, but that's too little and too late.